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At random times, I hear a metallic snapping sound, repeated several times, from somewhere in the front of my case. I believe it's the same sound as when the computer finishes shutting down. Has anyone else had that happen? Any idea what it means? Electrical problem of some kind?
Ah. I don't know exactly what "spinning down" means, but if a hard drive can make that sound, that explanation would make perfect sense, because I'm having hard drive errors lately. So is my hard drive probably failing? I think it's only a year and a half old., Or maybe it's two-and-a-half years--I can't remember.
It's a power-saving technique in which the drive stops the platters spinning. It's often used in laptops when running on battery, for example. I guess it could be useful in a desktop, too, though...
Anyhow, it's doubtful that you have it enabled. Usually (unless you're installing on a laptop and the installer picks up on that) it won't set that kind of thing up by default when you install for the first time.
What do I mean? I mean that unless the listener was a computer nerd or a professional (thereby having a strong interest in listening), anyone I told my computer's problems to would stop reading because it was keeping them up all night and they needed to go to sleep. That is my way of suggesting that my computer is a piece of junk with a very long list of problems.
now is your opportunity to listen closely to the noise being made so that you can identify it in the future. your next step is to take a look inside and see how much muck is in there. if you haven't cleaned it inside in the last six months, you may find that one of the fans is a bit gummed up and has a sticking point.
with your ear close to the machine, move around and see if you can discern from where the sound is coming. figure out how to describe the perceived location.
if you're chary of ripping it open and peering inside, welcome to the club. after the first few daunting steps, it soon becomes second nature to strip 'em down, clean 'em up and bung 'em back together, moderately confident the blighter will work.
places to listen for sounds is the back (usually top of one side) for power supply, which has a fan; on the motherboard, where more fans may be sited, at least one; at the front, below the cd player is the hard drive(s) (usually). there may be other fans inside the case and visual inspection, along with your lugholes, should reveal them.
have a good listen. take a break. have another listen. rinse and repeat until you grok it. report back. gluck.